You can ignore most expressions of art: nobody forces you into an art gallery; you can walk out of a play or cinema; and stop reading a book. But one art form is in your face, wherever you look – architecture.

The geek in me thoroughly enjoyed John Grindrod’s Concretopia a book about – well, concrete. This story was about buildings, both the big and famous like the Barbican and the small and every day like housing estates. The basic message of the book was that there was a great deal more that was positive and good about what was done after the war than was bad.

Grindrod has now been touring Britain applying his critical eye to post-1980 projects, again with his practised skill. When you read the late Queen Mother’s apparel described as: ‘snipping a ribbon… dressed in the manner of a Beatrix Potter hedgehog’, you can be assured that this isn’t a dry book about architecture.

The facts he reveals are alarming, during the boom in the 1980s for owner-occupier housing, less than five per cent of new builds were designed by an architect. Or amusing. The Terry Farrell-designed Embankment Place, owned by the Sultan of Brunei, who introduced stoning to death for adulterers and gays, had in its basement Heaven Club.

American Carla Picardi recalls in the 80s that cabbies wouldn’t take her to Canary Wharf where she was attempting to develop the area we know today. ‘For London cabbies, it was literally off the map: the docks did not form part of The Knowledge.’

Here I should record an interest, John recently subjected himself to CabbieBlog’s London Grill, and as a result, Faber & Faber sent me a copy. This is a large tome (apparently Grindrod discarded 50,000 words), the book would have been enhanced with more illustrations featuring the building being analysed, but that would have made it impractical for printing.

Grindrod’s highly readable style, more akin to a page-turning novel, makes this polemical work on something that touches us all, a pleasure to read.

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